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Hong Kong’s blurring border with China bodes well for the future

#Hong #Kongs #blurring #border #China #bodes #future

From the hill in northernmost Hong Kong where Jasper Law stood, the border with China was evident – a narrow river separating farmland and fishponds from the gleaming skyscrapers of the megacity Shenzhen.

Friday marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule.

While the view from the hills of Lok Ma Chau suggests Hong Kong remains distinct from mainland China, the area is quickly being included in Beijing’s blueprint for southern China.

And as the border has broken away, the lack of public consultation has done little to ease the lingering unease some Hong Kongers feel at living on the mainland’s doorstep.

“In the 25 years since the handoverthe borderbecoming increasingly blurred,” says Law, a pro-democracy politician from the border region.

The softening of the border has concerned many Hong Kongers.

And it was one of the catalysts for the big pro-democracy protests in the financial hub three years ago, a movement initially sparked by attempts to allow extraditions to mainland China.

Beijing’s subsequent actions only hastened Hong Kong’s admission.

– Security agents move freely –

The integration of Hong Kong’s people and economy into mainland China has been underway for decades.

Between 1997 and 2021, more than 1.1 million people emigrated from China through a quota “one-way permit” system, nearly a seventh of Hong Kong’s current population.

Mandarin was increasingly pushed in schools, sparking resentment from those who felt the city’s distinct Cantonese culture was being eroded.

Hong Kong’s borders have also been adjusted, most notably in the 2010s with an extension of China’s high-speed rail into the city.

Part of the Hong Kong terminus fell under Chinese jurisdiction, meaning that the mainland’s Communist Party-controlled legal system applied there.

Beijing’s imposition of a sweeping national security law to stem dissent following the 2019 protests further undermined the legal firewall between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Under the law, which was directly imposed by Beijing rather than passed by the legislature, the mainland’s security agents can now operate freely in Hong Kong, immune to the city’s laws.

Beijing says it can now condemn mainland China’s most serious national security crimes.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has further blurred the lines.

While the border has mostly been closed under China’s strict zero-Covid rules, mainland medics have been given exemptions from working in Hong Kong’s hospitals.

Construction teams have also been sent across the border to build emergency health facilities and even build a new bridge to Shenzhen to facilitate their journey.

– “Power Imbalance” –

The Hong Kong government is now planning to transform the border area with a two-decade plan that puts integration with Shenzhen at the heart of economic development in the city’s northernmost areas, shifting the focus away from Hong Kong’s glittering Victoria Harbour.

The HK$100 billion (US$12.7 billion) project, dubbed ‘Northern Metropolis’, will see the construction of a new megacity next to Shenzhen – a new hub in Beijing’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ ambitions, a Chinese silicon Valley connecting Hong Kong and several cities in the neighboring province of Guangdong.

The government says the new metropolis will create 650,000 new jobs as well as much-needed new housing in one of the world’s least affordable cities.

Veteran urban planner Kenneth To said he thinks the government’s vision is far from coherent, and bemoaned the small constituency of stakeholders dominating the discussion on Hong Kong’s development.

“The power imbalance is worrying,” he told AFP news agency.

But Jack Lam, a cell phone accessories salesman who lives in a county near the border, was more optimistic.

“If the population grows, you can count on further developments, more people will definitely start companies,” said the 35-year-old.

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#Hong #Kongs #blurring #border #China #bodes #future

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